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Press Release May 2020
20/05/2020

January to March 2020 METALS BALANCES

Please note that the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on both the supply and demand for metals worldwide. The true impact of the lockdown in many countries will emerge over the next few months. Demand for most countries is calculated on an apparent basis. Metal shipments are in transit for some weeks and stock levels are under reported and so it is likely that the demand for all metals will be overstated for the next few months.

Primary aluminium market in surplus in January to March 2020

The calculated market balance for primary aluminium for January to March 2020 was a surplus of 709 kt which follows a surplus of 761 kt recorded for the whole of 2019. Demand for primary aluminium for January to March 2020 was 15.7 million tonnes, 532 kt more than in the comparable period in 2019. Production in January to March 2020 rose by 5.8 per cent. Total reported stocks fell during January and February 2020 but rose again in March to close at the end of the period 22 kt above the December 2019 level. Total LME stocks also fell in the first two months, mostly in Malaysian and Singapore warehouses but rebounded in March. Total stocks at the end of March 2020 were 2172 kt which compares with 2149 kt at the end of 2019. Total stocks held in the four exchanges in London, Shanghai, USA and Tokyo were 1714 kt at the end of March 2020 which were 39 kt higher than the December 2019 total. No allowance is made in the consumption calculation for large unreported stock changes especially those held in Asia.

Overall, global production rose in January to March 2020 by 5.8 per cent compared with the first three months of 2019. Chinese output was estimated at 8843 kt, based on higher availability of imported bauxite and alumina, and this currently accounts for about 54 per cent of the world production total. Chinese apparent demand was 5.8 per cent higher than in January to March 2019 although output of semi-manufactures fell by 6 per cent. China became a net importer of unwrought aluminium in the first quarter of the year. During January to March 2020 Chinese net exports of aluminium semi manufactures were 1051 kt which compares with 1206 kt for January to March 2019.

Production for January to March in the EU28 was 0.5 per cent lower than the previous year and NAFTA output rose by 4.1 per cent. EU28 demand was 211 kt lower than the comparable 2019 total. Global demand rose by 3.5 per cent during January to March 2020 compared with the levels recorded one year previously.

In March 2020, primary aluminium production was 5540.9 kt and demand was 5242.7 kt.

Copper market in surplus in January to March 2020

The copper market recorded a surplus of 188 kt in January to March 2020 which follows a deficit of 268 kt in the whole of 2019. Reported stocks rose during January, February and March to close 316 kt higher than at the end of December 2019. This increase includes net deliveries of 76.5 kt into the LME warehouses and Comex stocks dropped by 9 kt. Shanghai stocks rose by 240 kt during January and March. No allowance is made in the consumption calculation for unreported stock changes, particularly in the Chinese government stockpile.

World mine production in January to March 2020 was 5.24 million tonnes which was 8 per cent higher than in the same period in 2019. Global refined production for January to March 2020 was 5.93 million tonnes up 8.1 per cent compared with the previous year with significant increases recorded in China (up 243 kt) and in Chile (up 61 kt).

Global demand for January to March 2020 was 5.74 million tonnes compared with 5.5 million tonnes for the same months of 2019. Chinese apparent demand for the period January to March 2020 was 2857 kt which was 7.7 per cent higher than the first three months of 2019. EU28 production fell by 5.8 per cent and demand was 810 kt which was slightly below the January to March 2019 total.

In March 2020, refined copper production was 2005.8 kt and demand was 1956.7 kt.

Lead market records deficit in January to March 2020

The lead market recorded a deficit of 17 kt in January to March 2020 which follows a deficit of 237 kt recorded in the whole of 2019. Total stocks at the end of March were 30 kt lower than at the end of 2019. No allowance is made in the consumption calculation for unreported stock changes.

World refined production during January to March 2020 from both primary and secondary sources was 2900 kt which was 4 per cent lower than in the comparable months of 2019. Chinese apparent demand was estimated at 1197 kt which was 220 kt lower than the comparable period in 2019 and represented about 41 per cent of the global total. For the USA, apparent demand has increased by 24 kt for January to March 2020 compared to the same months of 2019.

In March 2020, refined lead production was 1030.6 kt and demand was 1035.8 kt.


Zinc market records surplus in January to March 2020

The zinc market was in surplus by 68 kt during January to March 2020 which compares with a deficit of 75 kt recorded in the whole of the previous year. Reported stocks increased by 149 kt during January to March which included a net increase in Shanghai of 132 kt over the period. LME stocks rose over the January to March period to close 23 kt above the December 2019 level. LME stocks represent 12 per cent of the global total with the bulk of the metal held in Taiwan and Dutch warehouses.

Global refined production rose by 6.9 per cent and demand was 5.8 per cent higher than the levels recorded one year earlier. Japanese apparent demand was, at 132 kt, 2.5 per cent below the equivalent total for January to March 2019.

World demand was 185 kt higher than for January to March 2019. Chinese apparent demand was 1540 kt which is 46 per cent of the global total. No allowance is made in the consumption calculation for unreported stock changes.

In March 2020 slab zinc production was 1115.6 kt and demand 1145.3 kt.

Nickel market records surplus in January to March 2020

The nickel market was in surplus during January to March 2020 with production exceeding apparent demand by 6.6 kt. In the whole of 2019, the calculated deficit was 17.9 kt. Reported stocks held in the LME at the end of March 2020 were 75.5 kt higher than at the end of the previous year. Refined production in January to March 2020 totalled 523.2 kt and demand was 516.6 kt.

Mine production during January to March was 595.9 kt, 52 kt above the comparable 2019 total. Chinese smelter/refinery output fell by 4 kt compared with 2019 and apparent demand was 243.9 kt, 12 kt higher than in the previous year.

World apparent demand was 0.3 kt lower than the previous year. No allowance is made in the consumption calculation for unreported stock changes

In March 2020, nickel smelter/refinery production was 169.0 kt and demand was 175.3 kt.


Tin market records deficit in January to March 2020

The tin market recorded a deficit of 7.1 kt during January to March 2020 and there were no DLA deliveries during the period. Chinese demand is calculated on an apparent basis using reported stocks on the Shanghai exchange. Total reported stocks were 9.1 kt lower than at the end of 2019

Global reported production of refined metal was down by 11 kt, compared with the January to March 2019 total. Production in Asia was 11.5 kt lower than the January to March 2019 total. Apparent demand in China was 17 per cent lower than the equivalent period of the previous year.

Global tin demand during January to March 2020 was 83.2 kt which was 8.7 per cent below the comparable period of 2019. Japanese demand was 5.8 kt which was 18 per cent below the comparable total for January to March 2019.

In March 2020, refined production was 24.2 kt and consumption was 30.7 kt


Dated 20th May 2020


- ENDS-






The above data are taken from World Metal Statistics May 2020 published today.

Editors requiring more detailed information should contact Sue Eales by email at suee@world-bureau.co.uk or by telephone +44 (0) 1920 461274




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